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Two new Mighty Good mini-locations opening this spring

Food carts are often used as an incubation process for new food businesses to get their bearings and test the market before investing in a permanent location. Though Mighty Good Coffee has been a destination for coffee connoisseurs a remote workers for years now, owner  David Myers still sees his forthcoming presence at Mark's Carts as a similar venture. 

"Four blocks is a long way away in terms of pedestrian traffic," he says. "I think there is an opportunity for us to do well in an corridor that gets a lot of traffic that doesn't necessarily cross Huron St. For me, it's relatively low risk, and there is no retail space available right now, so why not try not try something?"

The Mighty Good Coffee cart could join Mark's Carts as early as this Friday, should all of their equipment arrive on time. It will only be the first of two new ventures for the coffee maker, however, as Myers is also working on a mini-coffee shop inside Two Wheel Tango on Jackson Rd.

"The coffee shop inside a retail space is a trend that has been growing for a few years," Myers says. "I'd been looking for a place for coffee on the far west side, so I called [Dennis Pontius] up one day and said would you ever consider this. We were off and running."

The Two Wheel Tango location will include a coffee bar, about six tables and a menu similar to what is now available at the original Mighty Good shop. The Mark's Cart shop will offer a slightly pared down menu. Both locations will open at 7 am, which Myers hopes will further activate the spaces, which currently open later in the morning. 

Three new staff members have already been hired to manage the Mighty Good cart, and Myers anticipates hiring two more for the Two Wheel Tango location, which is slated to open in May. 

Source: David Myers, Mighty Good Coffee
Writer: Natalie Burg

Longtime family bakery in Pinckney to open new location in downtown Chelsea

Pinckney Bakery owners Kim and Saing Yam weren't looking to open a second location, but when they came across the space in downtown Chelsea left by cupcake maker Glee, both the building and the timing seemed right. 

"It's a coincidental thing," says Kim Yam. "The cupcake lady closed down, and I told my husband to go look. It wasn't planned."

Though unplanned, a second location isn't unprecedented for the Yams. They owned the Dexter Bakery for 17 years before deciding to cut back and spend more time with their kids about five years ago. Now that their kids are older, the Chelsea location seemed like a good opportunity. 

"The only thing we'll do different than in Dexter, is we don't do bread," Yam says. "We have pastries, pretzels, cookies — everything, you name it, and we bake fresh every day."

Yam hopes to open the Chelsea Bakery in the second week of April, initially hiring a staff of two for the store. They are now renovating the 2,000 square foot space, putting in new flooring and countertops. Yam plans to include space for seating inside the bakery.

Source: Kim Yam, Pinckney Bakery
Writer: Natalie Burg

STUFD promises big meals, affordable prices for EMU community

Though Joel Hamami recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University, his big plans for the future won't take him too far from campus. In fact, his forthcoming restaurant with partner Zack Ruthven, STUFD, will be right across the street. 
"Eastern's campus lacks a couple of things right now. There aren't many places to go for a quick burrito," Hamami says. "We are trying to stay connected to Eastern, looking to be involved with the athletics teams and orientation."
The STUFD concept is to offer diners inexpensive burritos, chimichangas, tacos, nachos and quesadillas with a variety of toppings and add-ons. A number of menu items will come with a "STUFD" option, which, according to the menu, "is available for the consumer who is not satisfied with just being full."
Hamami is now in the process of renovating the 2,200 square foot space, and is hoping to open April 5. He plans to hire a staff of about 10, and offer both delivery and dine-in eating for about 50 diners.
While his current focus is the success of this location, Hamami hopes to expand in the future, opening STUFD restaurants near college campuses elsewhere in Michigan.

Source: Joel Hamami, STUFD
Writer: Natalie Burg

Beloved Birmingham hamburger house picks Ann Arbor for second location

For more than 60 years, Hunter House Hamburgers has been a Metro Detroit favorite, serving oniony sliders from a white pill-box diner in Birmingham. After all that time, the small family restaurant has decided to expand, and downtown Ann Arbor will be the beneficiary of the decision. 

"We had been an institution in the Detroit area for 60 years," says Kelly Cobb, who will operate the new location. "We thought what better way to share than to expand. Ann Arbor was obvious choice."

Cobb will open the new Hunter House on E. William St. in late April or early May. At 2,000 square feet, the restaurant will be about twice the size of the original, but will retain the same diner aesthetic customers are used to in Birmingham. That extra room will allow for some changes to the Hunter House menu. 

"We never really had a chance to grow at the original place because it's so small," says Cobb. "We have a ton of additional kitchen space now."

The Ann Arbor location will offer about a dozen varieties of milkshakes and malts and some additional menu items, but Cobb assures fans of the original that they will also find everything they love from Birmingham as well. 

In addition to dine-in seating, Cobb plans to offer a take-out window and stay open late to serve the downtown market. He anticipates hiring a staff of about 25 for the Ann Arbor location.

Source: Kelly Cobb, Hunter House Hamburgers
Writer: Natalie Burg 

New State St. drive-thru and gas station to break ground this summer

Joseph Kafi has had big plans in mind for the corner of S. State St. and Eisenhower since he purchased the Shell station there five years ago. Now, the demolition and redevelopment project has been approved by the Ann Arbor Planning Commission and could break ground this summer.
"This is one of the last hard corners before downtown," Kafi says. "It's a good location, with the mixed commercial uses, Briarwood Mall and other offices nearby."
According to the plans, the less than 1,000 square foot convenience store and existing car wash will be demolished to make way for a new, 4,250 square foot development that will include a larger retail store and a restaurant with a drive thru. Though a restaurant brand has not yet been chosen for the location, Kafi says he is in talks with a number of national chains and expect it will be a bakery/cafe concept. 
The expanded retail space will also grow in terms of its offerings. In addition to snacks, the store will offer a larger selection of grocery items, electronic accessories and sportswear. 
"It's basically for quick visits on the go," Kafi says, "for someone who may need anything from nail polish remover to chips." 
Should the project be approved by city council and construction proceed as planned, Kafi hopes construction will be complete by fall of this year. He intends to retain the convenience store staff for the new store, and hopes to continue offering gas throughout construction. 
Source: Joseph Kafi, JAK Cubed, LCC
Writer: Natalie Burg

Livonia Builders to bring 32 condos to Carpenter Rd.

New brownstone-style living opportunities will be available in Pittsfield Twp. next year or the following. The 32-unit project, called The Enclave at Arbor Ridge may develop into condos or apartments, depending on the market when they're ready for occupancy. Looking at the current market, they very well could at least begin as apartments.
"The rental market is fantastic," says developer Danny Veri of Livonia Builders. "They're set up so that we could switch them to condos at any time. I might flip them sometime in the future, maybe in five or 10 years."
Either way, The Enclave at Arbor Ridge will include two- and three-bedroom brownstones ranging from around 1,500 to 1,600 square feet. Though the market will determine the final rental rates, Veri estimates they will be around $1,450 to $1,600 per month. 
"I think we're going to pull young professionals," Veri says. "There are a lot of university employees, hospital employees and grad students in the area."
The location was chosen for its freeway access, as well as its surroundings. The one-acre development will sit on an eight-acre site, which includes woods and wetland. Veri anticipates residents enjoying the tranquility provided by the undeveloped area of the property, which sits on the corner of Carpenter Rd. and Cloverland Dr. 
With other development projects underway and planned for the area, Livonia Builders plans to begin construction on The Enclave at Arbor Ridge in 2015, which will last approximately one year. 

Source: Danny Veri, Livonia Builders
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local Mexican restaurant family grows to three with Los Amigos Fiesta

The owners of Los Amigos and Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill in Ann Arbor weren't necessarily looking for a space to open a third location, but when it fell into their lap, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. 
"[The owners of Maiz] were offering to sell it to us," says manager David Corona. "They had a really nice place, and we are familiar with the area. If we didn't take it, someone else would, so we wanted to be the ones who did." 
With the relatively new Maiz restaurant having recently renovated the 220-seat space, it was a quick transition for Corona and his team, who opened Los Amigos Fiesta two weeks ago before many patrons even knew it had changed hands. 
"People are coming in without knowing it, and have been saying everything is good, so we're happy with that," Corona says. "A lot of our regular customers have been stopping by as well."
According to Corona, knowing the tastes of the Ann Arbor community has been key to the growth of the family of restaurants. A fourth location isn't planned, but as he mentions, neither was Los Amigos Fiesta. The company will always be on the lookout for great opportunities. 
The new restaurant offers a menu similar to their existing restaurants, with a focus on authentic Mexican dishes and standout Happy Hour specials. Los Amigos Fiesta employs a staff of about 25, half of which were new hires after Maiz's move to Ypsilanti's Depot Town.

Source: David Corona, Los Amigos Fiesta
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chelsea artist opens upstairs studio on Main St.

Chelsea artist Lindsey Dahl loves nature and vibrant colors. Combining the two has become her trademark style as a painter. Now, with her new Wild Feather Studio, she has the opportunity to create more and larger works, and the public will have the chance to engage with her work as well. 

"There's a lot of foot traffic in Chelsea during the summer, especially during Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights and the summer festival," says Dahl. "In my new space, I hope to gain more great collectors and clients, as I'm always game for working on custom commissioned pieces."

Wild Feather Studio is above Smokehouse 52 BBQ on Main St. in Chelsea. Dahl moved into the space at the beginning of March, and will soon have signage available to direct people to the studio to see her work. 

"Using non-typical colors in my paintings to show my subjects is so much fun," Dahl says. "Working in this kind of style never gets boring, and I'm constantly learning about color. I think my paintings are very eye-catching, which is helpful to an emerging artist who's trying to get noticed."

Dahl studied fine art at Eastern Michigan University with a focus on painting. She works with acrylics, as well as spray paints, fabric paint and acrylic mediums. Some of her work also incorporates metal, beads and feathers, and she works with both canvas and barn wood.

Source: Lindsey Dahl, Wild Feather Studio
Writer: Natalie Burg

Tablets, year-round learning coming to Ypsilanti with Global Tech Academy

Technology has dramatically changed the global workforce. A new charter school planned for Ypsilanti intends to prepare the next generation of students for it. Global Tech Academy, a partnership between Global Educational Excellence and Eastern Michigan University, will open on E. Forest in August, bringing technology and year-round learning to K-5 students. 
"The people I've talked to are very excited," says Global Tech Academy Principal Robin Tolbert. "We have very high expectations. It's definitely going to be a nurturing and welcoming environment."
Global Tech Academy has a goal to enroll 200 to 250 students in its first year of operation. Those students will have access to teacher-controlled tablets, as well as textbooks to assist with their learning. Tolbert says the digital technology will aid in learning world languages, as well as prepare the students for the new MEAP test format.
The new charter school is the result of Global Educational Excellence research that showed Ypsilanti had a need for more technology-focused education opportunities Tolbert says her love of Ypsilanti as well as the school's focus makes her happy to be a part of it.
"I have a love of technology and I'm a long term resident of the community," she says. "I am excited about being a part of educating the students in the community where I went to school."
The 14-classroom school is now under renovation. Updates will include improvements to the kitchen, gym and cafeteria, increasing the size of classrooms and creating a parent resource room. A staff of 15 to 20 will be employed at the new school.
Source: Robin Tolbert & Mohamad Issa, Global Tech Academy
Writer: Natalie Burg

Little Conductors brings train retail, rental and fun to Chelsea

For the last year Heidi Langenferser and her husband have been renting out their own, homemade trackless train for parties and festivals. As they grew their offerings to include pedal train cars, the pair decided it was time to open a storefront and continue to grow their business. Little Conductors, which opened last week in Chelsea's Oak Tree Plaza, now offers both train rentals and retail. 
"We sort of started going in this direction with the train rentals and though it was a cool idea," says Langenferser. "We live in Chelsea and thought this was would be a nice place, right next to the freeway."
The 800-square-foot store opened on March 1 after four to five months of locating the right real estate and renovating the space. In addition to the pedal trains and the trackless train built by Lagenferser's husband, Little Conductors offers rentals on train tables for toddlers, Thomas the Train play equipment, as well as train toys and accessories for sale.
"We're getting positive feedback," Langenferser says. "People are liking the place."
Little Conductors is currently staffed by Langenferser and her husband. Eventually, they plan to grow into a larger space to include a play area. 

Source: Heidi Langenferser, Little Conductors
Writer: Natalie Burg

The customer is king at new Syrian restaurant, Damas

Syria native Jawad Seif may be the owner of the new Damas Restaurant in Woodland Plaza on S. Main St., but he leaves no room for doubt who his boss is. 
"The customer is the king," says Seif. "Any customer only has to pay if he likes the food. I'm looking to have a customer that trusts me, and I trust them every time."
After moving to Ann Arbor from Syria just a year and a half ago, Seif opened Damas Restaurant on Feb. 17. His Mediterranean style includes the hummus, chicken shawarma and falafel diners expect, as well as specialty items, such as stuffed zucchini and okra with rice. All of his foods, Sief says, will have freshness in common. 
"The rule here is that everything must be fresh. Every morning we have new ingredients," Seif says. "I'm happy because most of the customers say it's the best Mediterranean food in Ann Arbor."
For Seif, Ann Arbor was the perfect place to open his restaurant, as he says the community loves Mediterranean food and has made his family feel welcome from the first day they arrived. 
The 1,800-square-foot restaurant seats 40 and employs a staff of six. Seif decorated Damas himself with decor reminiscent of Syria. 

Source: Jawad Seif, Damas Restaurant
Writer: Natalie Burg

New 12,000 sq ft Blake Transit Center kicks off opening on March 17

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, or TheRide, will open its new, 12,019-square-foot, LEED Gold-certified Blake Transit Center to the public on Monday. After breaking ground in late 2012, TheRide says the completed building will offer a larger customer service lobby, improved restrooms and digital signage featuring real-time route information.

"Staff, including myself, who have toured the new building are impressed with the new space, and believe it will be a welcoming, comfortable, convenient, and safe place for riders," says Don Kline, integrated marketing coordinator for TheRide. "Early reactions from the public we’ve spoken to have been very positive." 

Monday will be a soft launch for the Blake Transit Center, as the lane buses will eventually use adjacent to the center won't be finished until the ground completely thaws. A grand opening event will be scheduled at that time. Next week, light refreshments and customer service staff will be available to the public to kick off the opening. 

Kline says the long term goal of the new Blake Transit Center will be to accommodate TheRide's growing ridership, which has increased by more than 80 percent since the former transit center was built in the 1980s.

"We are continuing to focus on improving connectivity in our urban core communities that in turn improves our economy, environment, and quality of life," he says. 

Next up for the ever-evolving organization will be a May 6 vote on TheRide's Five-Year Transit Improvement Plan, "TheRide Your Way." In 2013, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township were officially added to the TheRide organization.

Source: Don Kline, TheRide
Writer: Natalie Burg

Carrabba's, Five Guys and more coming to Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.

A slew of national chains including Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Subway, Sport Clips and others will soon be part of Pittsfield Place, a 12-business restaurant and retail development that is scheduled to break ground later this month. 

According to Landmark Commercial Real Estate's Michael Lippitt, who is marketing the spaces, the Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. location is ideal for the project. 

"Pittsfield Place is strategically located in front of a very long-established and high-volume Meijer," says Lippett. "The surrounding retailers are some of the highest-volume stores in all of Southeast Michigan. And the market, if you compare it to the rest of Southeast Michigan, is underserved." 

The project, which is being developed by Versa in Southfield, is divided into two phases. The first, which will include eight restaurant and retail spaces, is set to break ground this month with businesses, including Carrabba's, opening by the end of the year. About 6,500 square feet of commercial space is still available in Phase I. 

All properties in Phase II have been spoken for, and construction is scheduled for completion in 2015.

"The economy is very good and leasing is very strong," Lippitt says. "Support from the township was very strong, and Meijer was very interested. All of the moon and stars aligned at the right time."

The 6.4 acres of land on which Pittsfield Place will be developed was purchased from Meijer. The development will sit between Lohr Rd. and Oak Valley Drive on Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. with parking in the rear. 

Source: Michael Lippitt, Landmark Commercial Real Estate Services
Writer: Natalie Burg

Diva Nails to open on Maple, two more locations planned

Business is booming for Diva Nails. The Arborland nail spa is preparing to open its second location next to Plum Market on Maple Rd. next week, and is already planning a third in Northville while scoping out Troy for a fourth Diva Nails. 
"The one in Arborland is very successful now," says Diva Nails owner Frank Dinh. "I have a different way to run the nail business. We do very very high quality work, and we'll do even more high quality at the new spa."
After about eight months of renovations, the Maple Rd. location looks set to meet those expectations for quality. The lavish decor includes chandeliers and upscale tile. In addition to manicure and pedicure areas, the 5,000 square foot spa will also include a bar area. 
"We are waiting for the beer and wine license," says Dinh. "But we would like to serve beer and wine for the pedicure clients."
Final work on the new Diva Nails will complete in the next week. Dinh will employ a staff of 10 initially, and expects to grow that number as the spa's clientele increases. His Northville location does not have a open date yet, but Dinh says he expects it to be ready for business soon.

Source: Frank Dinh, Diva Nails
Writer: Natalie Burg

$12M Kingsley Lane Condos could add up to 21 units to downtown

The demand to live near downtown Ann Arbor could be fed a bit more with the proposed Kingsley Lane Condos. The long-delayed project has been been submitted to the Ann Arbor Design Review Board. Currently, the development plans include 21 units, but that could change based on the demands of prospective tenants. 
"We started out with an average unit size of 1,000 to 1,100 square feet, but we've already started talking to people about combining units," says Tom Fitzsimmons of Huron Contracting, who is working with developers Peter Allen, Mark Berg. "We've been contacted by about ten people so far. People are interested in larger units."
Regardless of how many units it will ultimately contain, the approximately $12 million project will be about 40,000 square feet and include two new buildings and an existing structure on Kingsley Lane. The goal of the project, says Fitzsimmons, is to build the kind of space people are looking for.
"We're trying to make nice spaces people are comfortable in, so that includes large decks, balconies, lots of indoor and outdoor space and nice master suites," he says. 
If the plan moves forward as planned, Fitzsimmons hopes the Ann Arbor City Council will approve that project in August, and construction would begin immediately. He expects the Kingsley Lane Condo project would then be completed by late 2015.  

Source: Tom Fitzsimmons, Huron Contracting
Writer: Natalie Burg
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